Where is the courage now?
Journalists are supposed to report news, not make it, but no one told Tarun Tejpal.
For the past decade, the poster boy of Indian journalism has run sting operations that unsettled governments, counted Nobel Prize-winning novelists as his personal friends and written three books himself.
Now, the man who publishes the English-language Tehelka (The Storm) magazine is seeing it all come crashing down around him. A young female colleague has accused the 50-year-old of sexually assaulting her on Nov 7 and 8. The incident took place at ThinkFest, an annual event that Tehelka organises that was attended this year by writer V. S. Naipaul, actors Robert Di Niro and Amitabh Bachchan, among others.
Tejpal has temporarily stepped down as editor of his publication, but faces arrest. Goa's chief minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar (whose Bharatiya Janata Party had felt Tejpal's sting), has promised action, while the Congress Party is standing by him.
Amid all this drama, Man Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy - whose book The God Of Small Things was published by Tejpal - reflects on her one-time friend.
Here are the excerpts:
TARUN Tejpal was one of the partners in India Ink, the publishing house that initially published my novel, The God Of Small Things.
I have been asked by a number of journalists for my reaction to the recent events. I have been hesitant to say anything because of the howling media circus.
It seemed vile to kick a man when he was down, especially when it seemed pretty clear that he would not get off lightly and that punishment for what he had done was coming his way.
But, now, I am not so sure. The lawyers have moved in, and the big political wheels have begun to spin. My silence is liable to be vested with all sorts of absurd meaning.
Tarun was a friend for many years. With me, he was always generous and always supportive. I have been an admirer of Tehelka too...(but) Tarun and I inhabited very different worlds and our views (on politics, as well as literature) - far from bringing us together - caused us to drift apart.
What has happened now has not shocked me, but has broken my heart.
The evidence against Tarun suggests that he has grievously sexually assaulted a young colleague of his during ThinkFest, an "intellectual" carnival run by him in Goa... Several lawyers have said that, according to the new (anti-rape) law, the nature of Tarun's sexual assault amounts to rape. Tarun himself has admitted to his crime in his own e-mail and text messages to the woman he assaulted.
From his position of uncontested power as her boss, he then loftily apologised to her and then, in an act that can be described only as delusionary, announced his own punishment - six months of leave in order to "lacerate" himself.
Now that it has become a police matter, on the advice of fat-cat lawyers whose services only the very rich can afford, Tarun begun to do what many men accused of rape do - vilify the woman he preyed on and call her a liar.
Outrageously, it is being suggested that Tarun is being "framed" for political reasons... So now a young woman who he very recently saw fit to employ, is not just a loose woman, but also an agent of the fascists?
This is Rape No. 2: The rape of the values and the politics that Tehelka claims it stands for, and an affront to those who work there and who have supported it in the past.
It is the hollowing out of the last vestiges of integrity, political as well as personal.
Free, fair, fearless. That is Tehelka's definition of itself. Where is courage now?